Wreaths Across America receives no government funding to support operations. Motivated and dedicated patriots across the country and at locations overseas power the Maine-based nonprofit organization. The mission to remember, honor, and teach is carried out daily by millions of citizens who care deeply for those who have served our nation in the armed forces, and their families. Some of these remarkable individuals are veterans themselves or come from military families while others are driven by a deep sense of patriotism and community service.
Placing fresh, hand-made balsam remembrance wreaths on the headstones of veterans across the country in December requires tremendous logistics and unyielding support from the trucking industry.
Wreaths Across America shows its gratitude and appreciation for all those involved in transporting America's respect with "Trucking Tributes." These stories will introduce you to the men and women of the industry who make the mission possible.
It goes without saying professional drivers spend a lot of time on the road and that offers them an opportunity to tune into radio programs. When a story about Wreaths Across America came on the Dave Nemo Show, Mike Dengel was listening and inspired to serve by volunteering for the mission to remember, honor and teach. He immediately reached out to his wife Barbara and said, "I heard about this program honoring veterans, and we need more information about it."
Mike is the owner/operator of 4D's Trucking Inc. out of Reddick, Florida and it's not the first time he's served the nation.
"Well I'm a veteran," Mike explains. "My father was a 31-year veteran of the Air Force, my oldest brother is a veteran and my wife's dad and brother are Navy veterans. Her uncle Coye was in the Army during Vietnam and one of her cousins is a twenty-six year Marine who was in Iraq when we got involved with Wreaths Across America. We have military connections in our families dating back to at least World War II."
Mike has been arranging his schedule for the past five years so he can make it to Maine with his fifty-three-foot reefer to transport close to six hundred boxes of fresh wreaths to honor military veterans buried in Sarasota National Cemetery. His son Michael holds a CDL (commercial driving license) too and has gotten involved in the Wreaths Across America mission supplying a few other participating cemeteries in Florida.
Mike and Barbara are proud and patriotic Americans who understand the great personal sacrifices of our military families. They have also witnessed the powerful impact one fresh balsam fir wreath with a red bow has on the living. Mike gets choked up when he recalls one particular example.
"The first year we got involved delivering wreaths to Sarasota National Cemetery we met a lady named Lois and her husband who was in a wheelchair and on oxygen. We got to know a little more about them and his service each year. Last year, Lois approached me alone and said, 'He's here now. I want to thank you, and he thanks you, and now I get to place a wreath on his headstone, and we're so grateful for what you do.'
Mike says the first year he and Barbara volunteered the wreath delivery and ceremony was basic but more and more people are catching on and want to do what they can to support the event on national Wreaths Across America Day.
"We stop at a rest area at mile marker 240 on I-75," Mike explains of their escort. "The Patriot Guard Riders and everyone they reach out to show up, and last year I lost track after two-hundred or more motorcycles showed up to accompany the two trucks to the cemetery."
"Mike even called the Governor's office last year to get a notice on the overhead highway signs that light up alerting motorists about the convoy," Barbara added.
This video shot in 2013 and shared with us shows the escort into the cemetery, and every year since the event has grown.
The whole family gets involved according to Mike
"People love to have their picture taken with our Great Dane Angel."
Mike and many of our other rolling ambassadors who are military veterans speak of a military brotherhood that may be hard for some civilians who have never served to understand fully. It's a commitment to one another that makes the remember and honor objectives of the Wreaths Across America mission so important.
"Hopefully the teach part of the mission will strike a chord in some of the younger generation," says Mike. "When they see all these people across the country coming out to remember and honor military veterans for their service."
Thank you, Mike and Barbara Dengel for your patriotism and tireless support of Wreaths Across America. You can hear more from Mike and Barbara in our "Trucking Tributes" on Wreaths Across America Radio weekdays at 11:00 AM and again at 4:00 PM Eastern.
"With NFI managing the logistics, the sky is the limit. They will help make the entire operation more efficient,” said Debbie Sparks, Director Corporate Development and Community Relations, Wreaths Across America.
Luann started her volunteer efforts with Wreaths Across America in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend who was participating with her DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) group. She's working to sponsor wreaths to cover all of the known heroes laid to rest at Oaklawn.
"I always choose our drivers who are military veterans for these loads and they are proud and honored to have the opportunity to recognize our fallen heroes and their families."
In referencing the Wreaths Across America Stem to Stone Remembrance Tree program Roger spoke to the value and necessity of "planting seeds of patriotism" in younger generations.
Monica explains Maverick has a tremendous amount of pride hauling America's respect and not only do they assign the wreath loads to their drivers who are veterans but those drivers are some of the industry's best.
The September edition of the Military Musicians Showcase goes out to jazz lovers!
As Aaron Van Beek, Location Coordinator for Sioux Center, Iowa placed Chris Kyle's tag in Maine the announcement was made that the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and Wreaths Across America have agreed to collaborate with the support of their respective programs.
Helen told us about her brother, Ralph H. Johnson, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously following his heroic actions in Vietnam in 1968.
Yes. At Wreaths Across America, we've heard about the "Walmart Heart," and we're honored to be welcoming a group next month that has decided to combine their charity effort with their patriotism and respect.
Brandon says last year spending time at Arlington National Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day with fellow employees of Cowan Systems, Inc. was an educational and humbling experience.
"It's been a dream of mine to go back to Arlington with my Mom to be a part of National Wreaths Across America Day to place remembrance wreaths on my grandparents' graves."
According to Gretchen CFI went above and beyond two years ago when they helped make her dream come true.
"When we did that project we had one hundred and thirty-five of our employees at that time who had served in the military and that's a big percentage of employees for one company. We think that it's important to recognize their service."
Christa Parker's love for her son, country, and volunteerism with Wreaths Across America knows no boundaries, quite literally. Her volunteer efforts frequently have her crossing states lines and her stamina and organizational efforts are an inspiration to all.
When asked if he could describe the power of the veterans' remembrance wreath he admitted it was a challenge to put into words, yet hesitated only for a moment.
One highlight from this year's performance came when Six-String Soldiers invited children of all ages to the stage to sing along with them, the Rick Charrette song, I'm An American! It echoed through the valley where replica dog tags of fallen heroes hang among the balsam fir trees' tips that will be used to make veterans remembrance wreaths.
"Rain, snow, or sunshine as you know these guys walk the walk, so we're here to dedicate this section of the tip land to the Old Guard," proclaims Wayne Hanson, Chairman of the Board for Wreaths Across America. "We certainly appreciate everything they do for us."
It was, in fact, a competitor of Abilene Motor Express who reached out to them to tell them about Wreaths Across America and Will says once the owners, Keith and Kolen Jones heard about the effort they were one hundred percent behind it right away.
Especially meaningful is the location of the Grove, which is adjacent to the soon-to-be-opened Medal of Honor Remembrance Park. From this vantage point, The Old Guard will continue to stand watch over America’s fallen heroes.
Kevin says driving Armellini's load of wreaths in the escort to VA National Cemetery in Lake Worth along with the Walmart trucks is a meaningful experience for him emotionally because of honoring veterans, but he says there's also a more physical kind of excitement as a professional driver.
Starting at the end of this month, as we countdown to Wreath Day, we would like to invite you to appear on our national webcast/webinar series to tell us about the local veterans buried in your community. We will also run your interview on WAA Radio and share on social media and in the newsletter.
"If we don't teach this younger generation that freedom is not free they're going to forget and not understand the sacrifice made by these men and women who keep us free and safe. I don't know where this country would be if not for the brave people who step up and volunteer to serve in our military. It's really scary to think of where we'd be without a powerful military."
Thinking about Christmas during July provides us with the perfect opportunity to encourage others to get involved with our mission by sharing the stories of their hometown heroes while explaining, however, to those not familiar we're not "decorating graves."
We are humbled by the hundreds of thousands of people who get involved every year on National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery and at over twelve hundred participating cemeteries in paying tribute to our veterans. One of those passionate and dedicated individuals is Ellen O'Neil Fuller.
Not only does Wade Gunter place a remembrance wreath on the headstone of a fallen service member at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC), he says their name aloud when he props it against the stone. It's what Wade does next that takes the Wreaths Across America mission to remember, honor, and teach to a higher level.